Blog Entry

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Super Bowl storylines

Posted on: January 22, 2012 11:18 pm
Edited on: January 23, 2012 2:00 pm
Posted by Will Brinson

Sorting the Sunday Pile takes all of Sunday's NFL action, figures out the winners and losers and asks the big questions. Send your complaints, questions and comments to Will Brinson on Twitter. Listen to the Championship Weekend Podcast Recap below and don't forget to
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Super Bowl Storylines

We have less than two weeks until Super Bowl XLVI is played in Indianapolis, and you need to be prepared for a slew of recurring storylines that will come forth over the next 14 days. Some are good, some are bad. Here are the biggest ones:

1. Playing in Peyton's House
No. 2 on this list will be the most talked about early on, but the biggest story of this Super Bowl is that this matchup takes place in the House of Peyton Manning. Peyton carved out a legacy as a sure-fire Hall of Fame quarterback in Indianapolis, and now the Colts quarterback is sidelined, unsure of his future in Indy, as he watches his most hated rival (Brady) battle his little brother (Eli) for a Super Bowl victory in the Colts stadium.

There's no telling how much face time Peyton will have to put in for the Colts over the next two weeks, and it could very well be minimal, but he's the city's most famous athlete (by a WIDE margin) and it's hard to imagine that he can just go underground while two guys whose lives are so closely parallel to his own prepare to do battle on his field.

2. 2007, All Over Again
Not sure if you heard or not, but the Giants beat the previously undefeated Patriots in the 2007 Super Bowl. It was a pretty good game. A lot of the people who will play in this year's game played in that game. (The Patriots are so bitter about 2007 that they were likely rooting for the Giants against the 49ers, just to get revenge.)

This will be the predominant storyline, whether you like it or not, over the next two weeks.

3. Tom Brady's Legacy
Brady is one of four quarterbacks with three Super Bowl wins. Another one moves him out of a tie with Troy Aikman (three each) and into a tie with Terry Bradshaw and his boyhood hero Joe Montana as quarterbacks with four Super Bowl wins.

There will be a discussion as to whether Brady warrants mentioning as the greatest quarterback of all-time if he wins a fourth Super Bowl. There will be plenty of chatter about how he matches up with Montana. And there will also be a discussion about what a second Super Bowl loss would mean to Brady: he could conceivably move to 3-2 in NFL championship games. That's not "bad" by any stretch of the imagination, but it's also not 4-1.

4. Is Eli Better Than Peyton?
We mentioned Peyton Manning already, but this is one that's going to get a lot of discussion: Manning's clearly established himself as a top-five NFL quarterback this season and he's putting together a ridiculous playoff résumé that is forging his overall legacy as an NFL quarterback.

In terms of raw statistical production, it's not even a contest right now, as Peyton's career numbers crush Eli's career numbers. Really, it's no contest. But Eli's also five years younger and has a shot at picking up his second Super Bowl, something Peyton doesn't have. Siblings can certainly be happy for one another when it comes to their respective success, but it's also going to be rough for both Peyton and Eli to find out how many times "Is Eli better than Peyton?" can be asked in a two-week span.

5. Brady and Eli in the Same Class
And our final quarterback comparison that will go down over the next fortnight: Brady and Eli. They'll go head-to-head for the second time in a Super Bowl over the past five years and this one has special meaning, and not just because Eli beat Brady the last time around. It's also because Eli said prior to the 2011 season that he belonged in the "same class" as Brady.

That's what any competitor should say, but Manning's spent all season long proving that he does belong on the same stage as Brady. A second Super Bowl win -- both over Tom Terrific -- would give Eli the last laugh if anyone asks him the same question before the 2012 season.

6. Bill Belichick's Best Coaching Job?
There's already a good argument that the 2011 Patriots are Bill Belichick's best coaching job in his career. That's a reasonable argument considering the Pats locked down the top seed in the AFC and made it to the Super Bowl despite continually starting Julian Edelman in their secondary.

Leading up to the Super Bowl, lots of people will point out that because of the defensive deficiencies and a number of other issues that a win cements this New England team as Belichick's finest work. They might very well be right.

7. Chad Ochocinco
The always-controversial wideout's been quiet this year and he was inactive for Sunday's AFC Championship Game after leaving the team to attend the funeral of his father. And though Chad fell in line with "The Patriot Way" this year, he's still an erstwhile celebrity, and he'll command some serious media attention over the next two weeks. Will he play? Will he make an impact? Can he play? Should he play? And so on and so forth.

8. Giants Defense
There's several different layers to New York's Big D. First of all, they're using the same formula as 2007, with a relentless pass rush. Secondly, you have to pressure Brady to stop him. Third, they run their mouths at an incredible (and awesome, if you're in the media) pace, and there's a decent chance we get a guarantee from someone (ahem, Jason Pierre-Paul and/or Antrel Rolle).

They'll be the difference-maker in this Super Bowl, because stopping Brady typically means stopping the Patriots, if you can provide enough offense to put some distance between the two.


Sterling Moore: With the Patriots already starting wideout Julian Edelman, Moore was signed off the street in September after being cut from the Raiders pratice squad. In the biggest moment of his life, he made the biggest plays, knocking the ball out of Lee Evans hands to spoil a Baltimore touchdown and then swatting a ball away from Dennis Pitta on third down to force a game-tying field goal attempt from Baltimore.

Eli Manning:
Manning became the first quarterback in NFL history to win five road playoff games on Sunday night. That's not just impressive, it's amazing: road wins aren't easy to pull off in the regular season but coming from behind and making clutch plays and winning in impossible/unlikely situations is just becoming Manning's modus operandi at this point.

Joe Flacco
: It never seemed realistic that Flacco could "win" if the Ravens lost, but he managed to silence his critics in the loss on Sunday night. There were things he could've done better, for sure, and he missed a pair of deep balls to Torrey Smith that might have given the Ravens a win. But he also put the Ravens in position to -- at worst -- send the game to overtime. Others screwed the pooch, not Flacco.

Giants Defense: Who do you want to give the award to on this side of the ball? Jason Pierre-Paul, Justin Tuck, Osi Umenyiora and Mathias Kiwanuka all registered at least half a sack against Alex Smith and that's precisely the reason why it's believable for the Giants to take down the Patriots in the Super Bowl one more time.

Alex Smith: Yeah, yeah, he lost. But it doesn't matter, because Smith played in horrible conditions against an insane pass rush on the biggest stage, and he played well. Sure, he didn't complete 32 passes like Eli. In fact, he only attempted 26. And only 12 of those were completions. But the dude made some plays with his legs (six rushes, 42 yards), and two of his passes were beautiful shots to Vernon Davis for scores, and Smith kept the 49ers in this game until the end.

Oh, Billy. Billy, Billy, Billy. (Getty Images)


Billy Cundiff: Can I just type "Ray Finkle" 50 times and call it a day? Cundiff's lack of range -- he was one of six from 50-plus yards in the 2011 regular season -- forced the Ravens hand on offense and then Cundiff shanked a potential game-tying field goal with mere seconds left.

Kyle Williams: It's not Williams fault that Ted Ginn missed a game that featured a ton of rain. But that doesn't mean he can go out there and muff a pair of punts to give the Giants the ball on the 49ers side of the field. Williams set the Giants up for a touchdown in regulation and a game-winning field goal in overtime.

Lee Evans: As noted above, Evans had a ball knocked out from his hands that would've been a touchdown. But it's pretty clear that he got lazy on the play -- hold onto the ball and the Ravens probably play in the Super Bowl. I'm sure his four passes caught in the regular season makes up for it though.

Ed Hochuli's Review Explanations: Four score and seven years ago, Hochuli faced the camera and began explaining why something happened in football. It took him -- literally -- a minute to explain the new playoff overtime rules, and he might've actually used 100 words to explain a false start at one point. Go back to being a gunshow.

Twitter: Aren't you guys rich enough to buy a server that doesn't crash during big NFL games?


Man, Vince Wilfork is steamed.

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Since: Apr 14, 2011
Posted on: January 25, 2012 2:41 pm

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Super Bowl storylines

While former 49rs QB Steve Young was not a starter in SBs 23 and 24, he also has three SB wins.  Steve played in SB 24 and he had a big role in the champs winning their division in 1988 e.g., Vikings game, 50 yard run winning touchdown.
While the NY Football Giants did a great job in beating the Niners, Tom Brady is not going channel his inner Alex Smith in this game.  Both the Patriots and the Giants take care of the football and take advantage of their opponent's miscues.  Tom Coughlin made some big changes in his behavior and the Giants responded by winning some important games in 2007 and 2011.  Coughlin will never be mentioned in the same breath as legendary coaches Lombardi and Belichick, he has a chance to be in the Joe Gibbs, Bill Parcells and Jimmy Johnson should the Giants win the game.

BTW, is that the camera shaking in the .gif above or is the ground shaking in response from Wilfork's breathing?

Since: Dec 1, 2009
Posted on: January 25, 2012 10:55 am

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Super Bowl storylines

HatestheColts, some of those old New England teams looked as outmanned as the Polish army when the Wehrmacht came a calling. Hard not to run up the score.

Since: Sep 21, 2011
Posted on: January 25, 2012 2:37 am
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Sep 21, 2011
Posted on: January 25, 2012 2:35 am
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Since: Aug 20, 2010
Posted on: January 24, 2012 10:18 pm

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Super Bowl storylines

I guess all the analysts and critics are right, you can't win with a passing percentage under 50%.  They say that about Tebow, I guess the same applies Alex Smith.

Since: Nov 30, 2010
Posted on: January 24, 2012 7:13 pm

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Super Bowl storylines

WELL  i have to say TOM BRADY is as go as MONTANA was.and  that is coming from a giants fan.yes BRADY IS UP THERE WITH MONTANA ELWAY YOUNG AND DAN FOUTS AND DAN M.

Since: Jan 24, 2012
Posted on: January 24, 2012 4:13 pm
This comment has been removed.

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Since: Jan 24, 2012
Posted on: January 24, 2012 4:11 pm
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Since: Nov 28, 2006
Posted on: January 24, 2012 3:31 pm

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Super Bowl storylines

Nice posts Fins, and dead on with each. Brady IS solid, but he gets star treatment all day. Just look at the personal foul for roughing the passer when he threw the pick, then got hit on the run-back. Don't you have to have the ball/possession to still be considered a "passer"? Wasn't he in fact a defensive player like everyone else trying to make a tackle at that point? Please- probably the 2nd worst officiating I've ever seen behind the non-call in SF that cost the Giants the game a few years back. And I'm sorry- they have thrived on crap teams this year. And the last thing I'll say is, show me the last time a team was an under-dog to a team it had beaten at their stadium in the regular season?

Since: Oct 17, 2006
Posted on: January 24, 2012 12:35 pm

Sorting the Sunday Pile: Super Bowl storylines

not so sure if he "silenced" his critics, he played a good game for Flacco, but threw a bad int (luckily for the Ravens so did Brady the next play) and made some bad 3rd/4th down decisions late in the game that could have goten a couple important first downs...he did good, not great, better than a lot of his playoff performances in the past though that the defense won games for him back then...

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